Best Fly Fishing in North Carolina

An angler stands in a scenic river in North Carolina, casting a fly fishing line into the water surrounded by lush greenery.
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North Carolina’s wealth of pristine rivers and lakes make it a premium destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. With a climate that accommodates year-round fishing and a variety of fish including the coveted trout, the state’s waterways offer a serene and productive experience for anglers of all skill levels. Whether you’re wading through the freestone streams in the Appalachian Mountains or casting your line in the delayed-harvest waters, the combination of diverse habitats and well-stocked rivers puts North Carolina on the fly fishing map.

Davidson River

When you’re seeking an exceptional fly fishing experience in North Carolina, the Davidson River should rank high on your list. Nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, this river is renowned for its stocked trout as well as a healthy population of wild trout.

Types of Trout:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout

Given its reputation, strict catch and release practices are in place in certain sections, particularly from the headwaters to the confluence with Avery Creek. This ensures the preservation and flourishing of the trout population for you and future anglers.

Fishing Regulations:

  • Catch and Release: From headwaters to Avery Creek
  • Fly Fishing Only: Certain sections
  • Year-Round Fishing: Yes

The Davidson River offers a mix of large pools and intricate runs, creating a diverse habitat where trout, especially large Browns, can exceed 18 inches. Clarity is a hallmark of this river, with crystal clear waters even during rainier periods — a fact that adds both to the challenge and the allure of fly fishing here. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just looking to dip your toes into the sport, the Davidson River’s harmonious blend of accessibility and seclusion makes it a top destination.

For real-time stream conditions and further details on what to expect on the river, you can refer to a fly fishing report on the Davidson River.

Remember that while the Davidson is accessible, local regulations change, so it’s crucial to check the latest guidelines before you plan your trip. Your respect for these rules ensures that the Davidson remains a pristine and productive river for all who wade its waters.

Watauga River

When you’re fly fishing in North Carolina, the Watauga River is a premier destination you shouldn’t miss. Originating from the high elevation springs in the Appalachian Mountains, the river offers you a rich habitat favored by both stocked and wild trout. In the river’s upper reaches near Boone, the waters are especially conducive to trout combinations, providing ample opportunities for fishing enthusiasts.

The Watauga supports a delayed harvest, making it a suitable environment for trout populations and offering you premium fishing conditions throughout the fishing season. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Location: Begins in the Appalachian Mountains and snakes through Boone.
  • Trout Species: Stocked and wild, including rainbow, brown, and brook trout.
  • Fishing Access: Various, including both wading and float fishing sections.

Best Practices:

  • Fly Selection: Match your flies to the current hatch; local fly shops can provide recommendations.
  • Fishing Technique: Adjust your approach between the free-flowing upper river and the tailwater sections.
  • Conservation: Respect catch and release areas to maintain a healthy fish population.
SeasonSuggested Activity
Spring/SummerDry flies and nymphs for hatches
FallStreamers for pre-spawn brown trout
WinterMidges and small nymphs

Remember, always check local regulations before you hit the water as they may change seasonally. A day spent on the Watauga River can be both a tranquil and fruitful experience, as long as you handle the river and its inhabitants with care and respect.

South Holston River

When you’re seeking the zenith of fly fishing in North Carolina, the South Holston River is a quintessential destination. Renowned for its healthy population of fish and engaging fishing experiences, it’s a river that commands attention.

Fish Population and Types:

  • Brown Trout: The river boasts a significant number of wild brown trout, making it an angler’s delight.
  • Fish Per Mile: With estimates of 8,500 fish per mile, you’re almost assured a catch.


  • Stretch: The prime stretch for fly fishing runs approximately 15 miles, from the South Holston Dam down to Boone Lake.
  • Access Points: Multiple points along the river are accessible for anglers, allowing you to find your perfect spot.


  • Sulphur Hatch: The South Holston River is also known for its prolific sulphur hatches, especially during the late spring and early summer months. This hatch can create superb conditions for dry fly enthusiasts.

Gear Recommendation:

  • Seasonal Variance: Your choice of gear should adapt to the time of year, with layers recommended for colder months, favoring materials like merino wool or polyester.
  • Wading Advice: If you’re planning to wade, it’s crucial to be mindful of water releases from South Holston Dam. Proper safety gear and a check on release schedules are imperative.

By keeping these tidbits in mind, your fly fishing venture on the South Holston River is poised to be a memorable one. Whether you’re an experienced angler or just starting, the South Holston River offers a rewarding and scenic experience in the heart of North Carolina’s fishing landscape.

Nantahala River

The Nantahala River, nestled within the Nantahala National Forest, offers some of the finest fly fishing experiences in North Carolina. This river is renowned for its wild trout streams where you can catch vibrant rainbow trout among other native fish species.

  • Location: Winding through the scenic landscapes of the Nantahala National Forest.
  • Fish Species: Primarily rainbow trout, with opportunities to catch brown and brook trout.

When fishing the Nantahala River, make note of the delayed harvest regulations in place. Certain sections permit catch-and-release fishing from October 1 to June 1, which helps to preserve the trout population and ensure year-round fishing opportunities.

When planning your visit, it’s important you obtain a valid fishing license. Licenses are mandatory for fishing in North Carolina and can be easily purchased online or at local outfitters.

Fly Fishing Adventures:

  • Tailwater: Fish the lower Nantahala for an accessible experience with high chances of success.
  • Delayed Harvest Section: Test your skills in the upper parts during the delayed harvest season for a more challenging outing.

To enhance your fly fishing venture, consider hiring a guide. Local experts can offer invaluable advice, taking you to the most fruitful spots and teaching you effective techniques. Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned angler, the Nantahala River promises a rewarding experience surrounded by pristine nature.

Linville River

Your experience with fly fishing in North Carolina isn’t complete without exploring the Linville River. Situated near the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, this river offers a diverse angling experience. The Linville River flows from Lake James, providing you with multiple fishing opportunities as you navigate its course.

When pursuing wild trout, you’ll find the Linville River’s upper reaches near Linville Gap quite rewarding. The waters here are cooler and support a healthy trout population. Remember, practicing catch and release ensures that the wild trout population remains stable for years to come. Fly fishing is particularly fruitful during the spring and fall months when trout are more active.

Here’s a concise guide to what you need to know:

  • Best Times: Spring & Fall
  • Target Species: Wild Trout
  • Location: South of Linville, near Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Fishing Type: Catch and Release

The Linville River also boasts unusual moderate flows compared to the area’s typical fast-flowing streams. As you cast your line, enjoy the river’s serenity and the challenge of enticing a trout to bite. Equip yourself with an appropriate selection of flies, and you’ll likely have success in these waters. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the Linville River, where each cast brings you closer to the heart of North Carolina’s fly fishing paradise.

Catawba River Tailwater

When you’re fly fishing in North Carolina, the Catawba River Tailwater should be high on your list. Originating from Lake James near Morganton, this tailwater section is particularly well-known for its hatchery-supported trout populations. Here, you’ll find healthy numbers of both brown trout and rainbow trout, providing a rewarding experience for anglers of all levels.

Access Points:

  • Bridgewater Dam
  • Morganton Greenway System

Fishing Regulations:

  • Hatchery Supported Trout Waters
  • Special Regulations may apply

Best Fishing Seasons:

  • Brown Trout: Year-round with peak times from November to May
  • Rainbow Trout: Year-round with optimal conditions in spring and fall

Fishing Techniques:

  • Dry Flies: Suitable during hatches
  • Nymphs: Effective year-round
  • Streamers: Ideal for larger trout

Experienced anglers and novices alike will appreciate the accessibility and scenic beauty of the Catawba River Tailwater. While the river can be wade fished in certain sections, using a float can often yield better results and provide access to more secluded areas.

To enhance your fly fishing adventure, consider the services of local guides such as those from The Catawba Angler, which specialize in this region and can offer invaluable insights into the local hatches and patterns that work best throughout the seasons.

Remember to check local fishing reports for the latest conditions, hatches, and any changes in regulations, ensuring you have a successful and responsible angling experience on the Catawba River.

Cherokee Trophy Section

In Cherokee, North Carolina, you have the opportunity to experience some of the best fly fishing in the state, particularly in the Cherokee Trophy Section. This area is a renowned section of the Raven Fork, offering you a unique and exceptional fishing encounter.

Location and Access:
The Cherokee Trophy Section is easily accessible, with plenty of roadside access for anglers. Its location along the Oconaluftee River promises bountiful catches and scenic views.

Stocked Trout:
You’ll find that the section is regularly stocked with large trout, some of which are record-breaking in size. Here, the main prizes are the sizable rainbow and brown trout, with the potential to catch those exceeding 20 inches.

Fishing Regulations:
Before you cast your line, be aware that this section has specific fishing regulations to preserve the quality of angling and fish populations. It’s fly fishing only, and you’ll need the appropriate permits and trout stamps.

State Record and Designations:
While fishing in the Cherokee Trophy Section, you’re in waters known for their exceptional size of fish. It’s not only about the challenge but also the chance to possibly reel in a state record-breaker.

Know Before You Go:

  • Obtain a tribal fishing permit.
  • Check for catch and release schedules.
  • Familiarize yourself with the designated trout waters.

By adhering to the guidelines and embracing the serene ambiance of the Cherokee Trophy Section, your pursuit of the perfect catch is both respectful to the environment and thrilling as an angler.

Wilson Creek

Wilson Creek in North Carolina is an esteemed destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, its waters are fed from the picturesque Grandfather Mountain. This creek provides you with a unique fly fishing experience, whether you are a seasoned angler or just starting out.

  • Location: Nestled within the Pisgah National Forest
  • County: Predominantly in Caldwell County; extends to Ashe County
  • Accessibility: Good access points including trails and roadside stops

Wilson Creek is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, which means that it boasts outstanding natural beauty and recreational opportunities. It’s important for you to note that this pristine waterway supports an abundant wild trout population and is supplemented with stocked trout to provide a consistent angling experience throughout the year.

Seasons & Regulations

  • Delayed Harvest: Implemented in some sections, offering catch and release fishing from October 1st through the first Saturday in June.
  • License: A valid North Carolina fishing license is required.

Species to Catch

  • Brown Trout: Salmo trutta
  • Rainbow Trout: Oncorhynchus mykiss

The diverse sections of Wilson Creek include remote stretches for those seeking tranquility and easily reachable areas perfect for a quick escape into nature. When preparing your visit, don your waders and remember that the creek’s character can change with the weather, often running clear but swelling quickly with rain.

Come experience the invigorating challenge of fly fishing at Wilson Creek – where the purity of nature meets the thrill of the catch.

East Fork of the French Broad River

When you seek a fly fishing experience in North Carolina, the East Fork of the French Broad River offers an exceptional opportunity. The river provides a substantial habitat for trophy rainbow, brown, and brook trout, ensuring a rewarding fishing endeavor.

  • Access: The river is publicly accessible, giving you ample room to explore different fishing spots. There are several miles of public water, each offering its unique fishing challenges and opportunities. For more specific information about public access points, you may visit WNCFlyFishing.
  • Guided Trips: If you’re new to the area, consider enlisting the services of a guide. They offer everything from rods and reels to flies, and sometimes even waders at no extra charge. To start your trip with a guide, check out the offerings at
  • Season: Early June marks the beginning of the Catch and Keep season, a time you might particularly enjoy for its abundant activity. For a glimpse into what fly fishing looks like during this time, you can find videos on YouTube.

When preparing for your fly fishing adventure, keep in mind that the river can have varying water levels. Appropriate caution and respect for the natural conditions will enhance your safety and enjoyment.

Tuckasegee River

Located in Jackson County, the Tuckasegee River is a gem on the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail. Known affectionately as ‘The Tuck’ to local anglers, you’ll find some of the best fly fishing opportunities in the area here, with the river offering excellent chances to catch rainbows and browns throughout the year.

What You’ll Find

  • Species: Abundant populations of rainbow and brown trout.
  • Programs: Part of the delayed-harvest trout program, ensuring plentiful catches during specific seasons.

Ideal Gear

  • Rod: A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line suits most situations on the Tuckasegee River.
  • Line: Floating line is recommended for dry flies and small nymphs.
  • Leader and Tippet: A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size ranging from 3X to 5X to match your flies.

Access Points and Tips

When visiting ‘The Tuck’, consider these spots and strategies:

  • Bryson City’s Island Park: Easily accessible with ample parking, providing straightforward river access.
  • Boat Ramp at US 19/74: Ideal for both boat launching and riverside fishing.
  • Fishing Approach: The best results are often from an upstream approach, targeting the riffles and runs where trout are active.

Remember, regardless of your experience level, the Tuckasegee River offers fly fishing experiences that cater to all, with its wade-friendly shallow streams and ample fish population, solidifying its reputation on the fly fishing trail.

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